Restriction on wheat imports; exports not likely to end soon

Prior to deciding to sell 50 lt from the Central Pool under the open market sales scheme (OMSS), the government had expected its wheat reserves to be at 126 lakh tonnes (lt) as of April 1, 2023. The country may have roughly 90 lt of stock as of April 1, 2023, vs the buffer norm of about 75 lt, according to another source, because offtake under OMSS is already robust and as much as 30­–35 lt of OMSS allocation is anticipated to be spent by March 31.

Regarding wheat exports, the source stated that the Inter­Ministerial Committee will make a decision in due course after the new crop begins to enter the market in April and a more precise production estimate is available. “Last year, it turned out that a blistering heat wave in March had a negative impact on a portion of the wheat crop, forcing the decision to export to be hastily reversed.

It is best to avoid such circumstances, he advised. In a warning last week, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) urged farmers in Punjab, Rajasthan, and Haryana to examine their wheat crops for signs of heat stress because maximum temperatures were projected to be 3 to 5°C higher than average in some regions of the nation. Exports during the procurement season caused official purchases to decrease to a 15-year low of 188 lt in the 2022­23 season (April–March), from 433 lt in 2021­–22, as a result of the heatwave-induced yield drop the previous year.

“There will be a tremendous danger if the export is allowed without assuring 250 lt procurement, especially while the temperature is rising in the wheat-growing region and the Russia-Ukraine war is still raging,” a source in the government said. With a provision of 50 lt for OMSS and an annual requirement of 180 lt of wheat for distribution under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and other welfare programs, the lowest amount of wheat the government can purchase is 215 lt due to a larger opening stock of 15 lt from the buffer.

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